Jaco van Zyl had a moment of terror at DecemberÂs South African Open Championship as he thought a watershed year in his career might be cruelly derailed.
For the umpteenth time in recent years, his right kneecap popped right out as he swung on the practice range.
ÂItÂs been going on for a few years now,Â he said, Âand it seems to get worse and worse; but you always think youÂre invincible.Â
This time though, it felt bad.
Luckily, he was able to get it popped back in and bind it up adequately to get out onto the course. But the binding was so bulky that he couldnÂt get his trousers on over it Â and professionals are not allowed to play in shorts.
However, with the rainy weather, he was able to disguise the fact that he was playing in shorts by pulling on a pair of rain pants.
The rest of the news wasnÂt as good for him: The general opinion seemed to suggest some sort of surgery would be necessary and recovery could take anything up to two years.
And with Van Zyl fresh from earning his European Tour card, this was not the kind of news the man who dominated the local tournaments on the Sunshine Tour with seven victories in the past two years wanted to hear.
He managed to get around the SA Open in a share of 27th place, but at that point, the news was starting to get better for him.
ÂI have been to physiotherapists and biokineticists, and between them, they have worked out that I have strength imbalances in my quadriceps,Â said Van Zyl.
The good news became a real early Christmas present when it became apparent that some fundamentally simple work in the gymnasium and on the physio couch was going to be enough to keep him on the golf course and potentially winning tournaments.
ÂIÂve got good people looking after me now,Â said Van Zyl, Âso I reckon maybe a month or two and it will all be sorted out.Â
And thatÂs good news for South African golf fans too.
While his eye-opening performance in last NovemberÂs WGC-HSBC Champions in China introduced his abilities to a global audience, he is still very much committed to plying his trade in South Africa as much as possible.
ÂI wonÂt have a base in Europe this year,Â he said, Âbut I will play over there until I have secured my card. Then obviously I would love to come back and play here as I absolutely love playing here.Â
And his knee should hold out.